Finally got the layout finished with the completion of the four (slightly) raised beds. In the final analysis (for this season at least) I decided not to permanently fix them down with corner pegs as it makes sense, if this whole new approach works (so far so good) to continue rotating the planting, whilst maintaining the same levels of nutrition in the soil, given I no longer intend to use farmyard manure. I’m not saying the manure was the problem last year, it could well have been me, given how lazy I can sometimes be, but I do want to try to keep what I grow as “organic” as possible, not because it’s trendy, but because it’s challenging and, hopefully, rewarding. A big thank you to Dave, who took my (albeit simple) vision and made it the reality I’m now working with. I topped up the soil with a layer of my own compost on top of a further (if sparing) scattering of chicken manure pellets. Barring major disasters, which I can never discount, we’re all set to go.
I’d had some concerns about the vine, there were originally two, one either side of the house, but the other one died back several years ago, for no apparent reason, before withering away to nothing. I was worried the remaining one would go the same way, sooner or later, so waiting for it to bud is an anxious time and I have to admit to “panicking” over it far sooner, every year, than I really need to. This picture was taken around 10 days ago and I’m happy to say leaves are now beginning to form. Hopefully, the “nettle water” will give it a bit of a boost, thinking back I’ve never fed it, just left it to its own devices. I suppose I could look it up, if I could be bothered (I will).
It’s nice to see things beginning to make an appearance, as it were. At the time of taking this pic half a dozen potatoes have come through and they look really healthy (touch wood). Three Charlotte and three Rocket. I’ve planted another three Charlotte alongside these and I’ll put in another three of the Rocket some time this week. I’m planning to hold some seed potato back and replant these rows once harvested, which should be late June, allowing me, if the plan works, to crop “new” potatoes into September. I’ve never tried this before, but, as they say “Nowt ventured, nowt gained.
Pleased to say the strawberries are looking extremely healthy, so much so that the plants I’d originally rejected when I re-laid the beds and improved the drainage are now thriving, some in friends and neighbours possession and some in an old galvanised washtub which was found in the big shed, under a pile of fence posts (Dave’s been doing a bit of fencing, getting ready for the ewes and lambs returning). I’ve created a mini version of the in situ beds, using stones, water permeable membrane along with a mix of my own compost, a bit of sieved soil, a soupcon of chicken manure and a liberal dose of “nettle water”. It’s flowering already and once I’m sure we’ve definitely seen the last of the frosts I’ll take it round home, where it’ll join numerous other pots, buckets, watering cans and the like in what passes for a garden (only joking if Mrs C is reading this bit :-).
All the tomatoes, along with lots of other seedlings in various stages of growth are now in the greenhouse, hopefully hardening off in readiness for planting out, the occasional glimpses of sunshine allow me to give them the opportunity for a bit of a “bask”. Forty tomato plants may seem like rather a lot, and I must confess to having put some more seed in, but I fear I’ve made a bit of a schoolboy error with my first batch. I don’t really know what possessed me, but I think I may well have done irreparable damage by over-watering. I had them in the windowsill of the spare bedroom, in un-sieved compost and didn’t really notice the water pooling in the trays. Poor water retention the problem, I suppose. I’ve re-potted them in sieved compost and I’m hoping they’ll recover (signs aren’t too bad), but if not then I’ll have replacements, they’ll just be a little late in maturing.
The tomatoes haven’t been my only cock up, another “schoolboy error” saw me mix compost and soil as a germination medium for a small selection of chilli and pepper plants. Given the amount of time I’ve been doing this stuff, you’d think I’d have learned some basic lessons, but I’m like one of those charity executives, when their staff get caught taking advantage of the very people they’re supposed to be helping, who say “Lessons will be learned”. They never are, of course, in mitigation (on my behalf) I’m just a bit lazy and forgetful. Those guys in Haiti, extorting sexual favours for food, were evil degenerates, who saw an opportunity and took it. The seeds may well have germinated, but so did any number of weed and grasses. Unable to see the “wood for the trees” as it were, I’ve started again. To make life a little more exciting I haven’t labelled this lot, I’ll plant them out (if they germinate) and see what I get. I don’t mind a surprise, so long as there’s chilli jam at the end of it all.
It’d hard seeing from this picture, but I’ve moved the onions (the green bits you can see), in with the leeks (the green bits you can’t see) and left a space at the end of the bed to plant out a couple of heads of rainbow chard. Chard stalks are handy celery substitutes (for cooking) with the benefit of being much easier to grow. The leaves make a more than acceptable substitute for spinach in both Italian and Indian recipes and the younger leaves are okay in salads (in small doses). Very versatile plant and I can report a couple are just germinating, could have more news on them next time (I’ll bet my reader can hardly wait).
I’ve put a row of peas in and a row of broad beans, the theory’s the same as with the potatoes. Get them in reasonably early, hope for the best, and do a second planting in late June. To be honest, I might not get away with it so far as the peas are concerned, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get two crops of broad beans the climbers and runners are a different matter, every time I’ve planted them (usually a bit later than this) they’ve cropped on well into September, so I’m not considering “doubling up”. I might review this next year, but there’s only so much space in the freezer drawer marked “Beans, Various”.
Of course, it isn’t all about weeding, sowing, planting out, replanting and watering, I occasionally take ten minutes to have a little sit down in the shed, brew my nettle tea and give some thought to what’s happening in the world outside my little rural idyll. Even more occasionally (these days) I take myself off into the fells or down by a “body of water”, have a long walk and do my cogitating in the solitude and clean fresh air. Dylan Mulvaney and Jeffrey Marsh are two names which have become “famous” (or is it infamous) in recent weeks. Two men, cos-playing as women, who seem to have gathered quite a collection of “allies” within the usual “Progressive Liberal” circles. Mulvaney, listed on Google (ironically) as an “American Actress” has taken to the job of denigrating the female of our species like a duck to water. His little pastiche videos, documenting his transition to “girlhood”, in which he prances around and gushes about his plastic life are cringe worthy and vomit inducing in equal measure. Comically, he’s now not only the “face” of Bud Light beer, he’s fronting up campaigns for Nike sports bras and Tampax sanitary ware, the Corpocrats, being the profit hungry, amoral, greedy nihilists that they are, couldn’t care less about how real women may view this, that’s secondary to both money and exposure (of any kind) in the media. No publicity is bad publicity, as the saying goes. Marsh presents a different face, a face with a beard and makeup, which he uses, along with a slightly sinister voice and well prepared script, to exhort young, confused and vulnerable boys and girls to relinquish contact with their families, before setting out on their journey to “transition-hood”. Both these men are living a lie, maybe for money, maybe for vicarious (or not so vicarious) sexual pleasure, maybe for both, but it’s a lie and it doesn’t matter how many people tell you to believe them or their shallow stories, because they’re liars too and probably share similar motives. I posted this on twitter last week, it seems a little twee, looking back, but I stand by it. However much someone would have you believe otherwise men can’t become women, it’s an impossibility, because men are male, and there really is a difference.
“I’m a man. An adult human male. I grew up in a matriarchal family, I’m married to a (real) woman and I’m proud to be the father of two (smart, industrious, hard working, wholly female) daughters. I like, respect and enjoy the company of women (on lots of levels). I’ve time for them, I love what they are. But; I’ll never know how a woman truly feels (on the subliminal female level). I don’t believe any man ever can.
© Colin Cross 2023